Exclusive: Reeza on rising to opener

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Proteas batsman Reeza Hendricks continued his rise to prominence after he received a call-up to the South Africa Test squad that will do duty in Bangladesh in July, is pleased to have grown into an opening batsman.

The Proteas Test squad has undergone a transformation in the last couple of years with the retirements of senior figures like Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith and most recently Alviro Petersen. The retirement of opening batsman Petersen is the reason Hendricks has been given an opportunity to stake a claim for a spot.

Opening the batting in the longest format is usually the toughest place to bat as you are facing the new ball that more often than not is doing something in the air or off the pitch. It is a specialised position that requires the right technique if you want to be successful.

The right-handed Knights player admits that he has not been batting at the top of the order all his life but has grown into the role the last five years or so.

He tells Cricket365: "I was never an opening batsman through all my age-group cricket, to be honest I was a middle-order player and it has been maybe the last say five years when I was converted to the opening role.

"I do enjoy it though. I got use to the role the last few years so now it is my favourite position."

He has now played in 93 first-class matches, boasting more than 5000 runs that includes 10 centuries at an average of 34.44. However it is in the shorter formats that he has made his mark, which has prompted the national selectors to take notice of him.

He has played 90 matches in List A cricket and has an average of 38.12, including six centuries. He has already represented South Africa in five T20 Internationals. So it could have come as surprise when Proteas chief selector Andrew Hudson informed him he was in the Test squad.

He says: "When Andrew Hudson gave me the call yeah I was surprised to be honest. I didn't know he would be calling me, I didn't even know the teams were being announced.

"I knew there was opportunities up for grabs with Alviro retiring but I still didn't think it would be me."

He does say that playing for the South Africa ‘A’ side has helped him immensely and he feels he is ready to fill the void at the top of the order in the five-day format even though his record in limited-overs cricket is much more favourable.

Hendricks continues: "I've played a few first-class games now and my record is not as good as I would like it be to be but I would like to think that I would be ready if given the chance at Test level.

"The ultimate is to play Test-match cricket and although my stats of late shows that I am better in the shorter formats, I do want to break through and play in all three formats for South Africa.

"The SA 'A' games helps a lot. We play against good quality teams like the England Lions, Australia 'A' and India 'A' and most of those players have gone on to play international cricket so it is definitely a step up from domestic first-class cricket."

The Proteas will go to the Asian country for two Test matches and have included four uncapped players, including Hendricks, in their 15-man squad. The Kimberley-born Hendricks has certainly come a long way from the making his debut for his local provincial side Griqualand West in 2006.

He came through all the Griqualand West age-group teams and represented South Africa at under 19 level, a team that was captained by Wayne Parnell.

He credits his love for the game to Eugene Jacobs, the Griqualand West CEO, who took him along to club games when he was a youngster.

The 25 year-old quips: "I am the only one in my family that actually plays cricket. I do however come from a sporting family as my dad played hockey and soccer.

"But a guy called Adri Swanepoel (former Griquas player) has been a big influence on my career. He is also from Griquas and has coached me all through my age groups from under 15, so he has been very influential in my career so far."

Nasri Alexander

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